Throughout the history of pro wrestling bookers and promoters have always tried to come up with new, creative and innovative ideas to generate interest in their product. Some ideas have not only succeed but flourished. Others were DOA from the get go. Then there are those ideas which initially were innovative but for various reasons faded away. This latest ‘Great Ideas That Didn’t Last’ looks at one of those. Namely the WWE return of Matt Hardy.
It all started in 2005, with a scandalous real life affair between Adam ‘Edge’ Copeland and Amy ‘Lita’ Dumas while Amy’s boyfriend Matt Hardy was sidelined with an injury. Word quickly spread throughout social media and the internet about the affair with many quick to sympathize with Hardy. In a shocking “twist of fate,” with the WWE not able to contain the details of the incident….the injured Matt Hardy was soon released from the company. It left fans scratching their heads as to why Matt of all people, was the one so severely disciplined in the matter. After all, he was off the road and not the one fooling around behind the scenes.
The reasoning was simple, Edge was being pushed as a main event star and Lita was one of the more popular female wrestlers on the roster…while Matt was just simply hurt and expendable. If the WWE had hoped by firing Hardy the story would go away, it did the exact opposite. Matt soon became and internet favorite and was more popular than he had ever been previously in his career. Edge was still a heel on TV, so the more boos he got didn’t really affect his in ring career. Lita was the one who suffered the brunt of fans disdain, so it only made sense for the WWE to turn her heel and align with Edge in storylines.
Suddenly, Matt Hardy became one of the hottest free agents in all of pro wrestling. With deafening chants of “We Want Hardy,” the WWE were left with not only egg on their faces….but their hands tied. It became more obvious to them to bring back the elder Hardy brother.
It seemed that Matt Hardy had moved on to other promotions and ventures…but starting in the summer of 2005…that all changed. Backstage during a live telecast of Monday Night Raw, Matt Hardy was seen attacking Edge and then running off before security could catch him. A little later, Matt Hardy tried to ambush the ring and was subsequently arrested screaming “Ring of Honor” while being grabbed by security. It was a truly surprising moment and felt real because for the most part…it was!
The WWE, despite firing Matt Hardy initially…came to their senses and rehired him. It became evident that instead of trying to sweep the incident under the rug, they were now going to face it head on. The real question was, could these former friends now real life enemies co exist in the same ring? Matt Hardy could easily throw some “accidental” potato punches or botch a certain move to seriously hurt Edge and vice versa. It truly made for compelling television.
That is until Vince McMahon went on Raw to make the announcement official. After, McMahon told the fans at the arena and at home that Matt Hardy was coming back to the company…one if not the biggest missteps took place throwing off the visceral nature of the entire feud. After the thunderous ovation Hardy received from the fans when his name was called…Hardy went down to the ring and did the unthinkable…
He shook Vince McMahon’s hand…
Now that might not seem like a really big issue, but you have to understand the basis for this feud. It wasn’t just Matt Hardy getting revenge on Edge and Lita…but giving the WWE a big FU for treating him so poorly when he was down and out. For storyline purposes, it would’ve made a stronger impact if McMahon put out his hand and Matt Hardy simply walked past him. It would have made Hardy look like a true rebel much like Stone Cold Steve Austin was prior to him.
Shaking the hand of the man who fired you when you didn’t deserve it…in a way…made Hardy look weak and not that rebellious at all. Needless to say, that wasn’t the only mistake made in Matt Hardy’s WWE return. Their first match…which was booked for Summerslam of that year…ended in an obscure fashion. While the match itself was okay…it did draw blood…but on the wrong individual.
Matt Hardy was the one busted open and the match was stopped due to Hardy’s inability to continue. Shouldn’t that result been the other way around? Shouldn’t have Matt beaten Edge so badly that the referee would need to stop the match? It certainly would have made Matt Hardy look like the maniacal wrestler exacting his revenge on his former friend. Instead, Matt was laid out and didn’t do much to elevate Hardy anymore.
Hardy and Edge would battle for most of the remaining summer and into the fall with the two gaining victories on each other. The ending came when Edge put his Money in the Bank briefcase on the line against Hardy in a winner gets the case and the loser must leave Raw. Did Matt get to screw Edge one last time and win his MITB briefcase? Nope, instead with his ex Lita interfering Matt lost the match and was sent packing to Smackdown finally ending the bitter feud.
Could the entire return and feud with Matt Hardy, Lita and Edge been done any better? Absolutely it could have, but seeing as how Matt was considered expendable to begin with…maybe this is exactly what the WWE intended. Give the fans the match they so desperately want without harming Edge’s main event status. Matt Hardy could sink or swim either way. A shame really…what could have truly been.
You can read all previous ‘Great Ideas That Didn’t Last’ pieces here.